One Breathless Night(4)

By: Jo Leigh

Jenna stared up at him. It was clear by his tone and the reference to South Shore, which was a good school but not like Thorndyke Road or Amigos, that he was trying to glam up her job. He wasn’t even the least bit convincing. But that he’d thought she needed glamorizing squeezed her heart. What was it with him tonight? Maybe he’d already had a second whiskey before he’d come back to join her.

Faith gave her a charming smile. Rick, however, looked at Payton for a bit before turning to her. “That’s where all the real action is,” he said. “What excites students in those formative years makes all the difference. I’ve wanted to study tornadoes since I was fourteen. Kids are so passionate at that age.”

“They are,” she said. “I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was thirteen.”

There was a pause then, just long enough for a change of subject. Mindy was being awfully quiet. It was Payton who broke the ice. “Oh, wow, I need to eat,” he said. With his hand on his stomach, he turned to Jenna. “Can I get you anything?”

She shook her head. At least that was more like the Payton she knew. Then he surprised her with a kiss. Not the usual peck, either. There was a little bit of tongue and everything, right there in front of everyone. She ended it quickly. “Thanks, Mr. Bond,” she said, hoping she’d hit the right teasing note.

Payton winked at her. “You’re welcome.” He faced the group again. “Okay, then,” he said. “Great seeing you again, Faith. Will you be in town for a while?”

“A couple of days.” Faith smiled at Rick, and then at Payton. “I’m sure we’ll run in to each other again soon. Nice to meet you all.”

The beautiful couple eventually blended into the crowd.

Once they were back to being a foursome, the men went to peruse the buffet table while Jenna sipped at her White Russian. She and Mindy were standing right next to the chocolate fountain, but she wasn’t hungry.

Mindy bumped her shoulder and whispered, “Danger Bond defended your honor.”

“What?” Jenna laughed. “No, he didn’t.”

“Okay, your profession. was nice.”

Jenna forced another laugh, grateful Mindy hadn’t mentioned Payton’s weird behavior. She did, however, give Jenna a couple of questioning looks, especially when Faith and Rick walked past them again. Jenna smiled as if nothing at all was wrong. She wasn’t jealous. Not really.

But she had to admit she was mystified by Payton’s behavior. He hadn’t mentioned they were engaged. He’d spent most of the brief encounter grinning at Faith. But maybe he’d just been caught off guard, seeing his old friend. Jenna could imagine herself fumbling if she’d run in to her college boyfriend, Martin, at a party. Of course that was a different thing entirely. She didn’t think anything had gone on between Payton and Faith. At least he’d never said as much. Anyway, Faith would be an idiot to roam when she had Rick. He’d been completely charming.

Payton claimed a recently vacated spot at a bar-height table. She would’ve preferred to sit somewhere, but it was nice to be able to put her drink down.

“Now that I’ve looked around,” Payton said, finishing off his whiskey, “I don’t think there’s a more beautiful Vesper Lynd in the whole hotel.”

She smiled, knowing he’d have said that even if she’d thrown a sweater over a workday dress. “I honestly thought there wouldn’t be so many Vespers.” The words were just out of her mouth, as yet another one walked by. “I suppose it makes sense, though. The movie was relatively recent.”

“None of them carry it off as well as you do.”

Another compliment? Interesting. Payton normally kept his praise private. But then, he’d never kissed her like that in public, either. There was no reason why he shouldn’t say those nice things in front of Zane and Mindy, and yet...

“And I’ve never seen your eyes look so alluring.”

Okay, that was really over-the-top. What the hell was going on with him? Did it have to do with Faith? Were these guilt compliments? Or drunk utterings? Like her, he wasn’t a big drinker.